PV Sindhu set-up a dream match against top seed Carolina Marin after beating Sung Ji-Hyun 21-18, 14-21 and 21-14 in the semi-final of the India Open today. Tomorrow's final will be a replay of the 2016 Rio Olympic final where the Spaniard had emerged victorious after three games.
The game started with both players exchanging the opening points levelling the score at 3-3 but it was the Korean who took the early initiative racing to a 6-3 lead. But Sindhu was in no mood to be overpowered as she fought back, creating incredible angles with her shots to level the game at 7-7. With momentum on her side, Sindhu took a lead of her own winning the next three points as well - the last one a brilliant cross court smash. Ji-Hyun got a couple of points of her own but it was Sindhu who went into the mid-game interval with a 2 point lead after an enthralling rally in which both players explored every inch of the court, before the Korean hit overhit a shuttle and was bizarrely denied a challenge by the chair umpire.
Sindhu made the most of the decision as she raced to a 15-11 lead after the break but found the Korean breathing down her neck once again after winning two straight points. Just as it looked like Ji-Hyun was building some momentum, Sindhu once again stepped on the accelerator with a smash down the Korean’s backhand. Ji-Hyun refused to give in and brought the game back to within a point at 16-17 but Sindhu was not going to let all her hard work go to waste as she wrapped up the first game at 21-18, with a smash down the line.
Ji Hyun came into the second game with a point to prove but soon found herself trailing 5-2. The World No. 3, however, won six points in a row to take the lead at 8-5 making Sindhu do all the running. After Sindhu tried to launch a comeback of her own, Ji-Hyun took the game to her opponent racing to an 11-6 lead at the midway interval in the second game.
Sindhu won the first point after the interval but soon conceded two of her own and did not seem to have the answers to what the Korean threw at her. The two players kept exchanging points taking the score to 16-11 before a well-disguised drop shot at the end of another long rally signaled a fightback from the Olympic silver medalist. She soon brought the game to within three points but the South Korean saw out the game 21-14 to take the match into a decider.
Having been asked to do most of the running in the second game, the support of the home crowd was always going to be vital if, Sindhu was to make it to the final and the crowd did not disappoint as they rallied behind their hero. Sindhu was off to the perfect start taking a 4-0 lead in no time. The pressure was beginning to tell on the South Korean as she started missing shots left, right, and centre and soon found herself trailing by 7-2. Sindhu kept the pressure on and went into the mid-game break with an incredible seven-point lead.
After the interval, however, Ji-Hyun started dragging Sindhu into longer rallies that resulted in the Korean winning three points on the trot to close the gap to 7-11. Ji-Hyun continued her run stretching Sindhu to every corner of the court and closed the gap to 10-12. With the momentum with Ji-Hyun, Sindhu went back to her natural attacking game and managed to extend her lead to 16-11. With every passing point, the respective body language of both the players indicated where they were heading - Sindhu screaming her way into the final, while Ji-Hyun was beaten into submission. The South Korean picked up a few points of her own but she was just delaying the inevitable. Sindhu soon had six match point opportunities, but only the needed just one to set up a dream final against Carolina Marin, in a rematch of last year’s Olympic final tomorrow at the Siri Fort Complex in Delhi.
U Mumba or Gujarat? Who will win?
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